1002ABS Nationals

ABS11 logo2010 ABS Nationals, Alexandria, VA

February 12-14, 2010

Alex Puccio
     Reflections of this weekend are so full of memories and stories it's hard to
know where to start. I found the timing of the events particulary meaningful as the Olympics kicked off
the same day the Nationals started. It was very symbolic, especially since as of December 2009, climbing was
fully recognized
by the Olympic committe
as a free standing sport (no ties to mountaineering). This
brings the sport a lot closer to seeing a program spot, maybe as soon as 2020?? Seems too long to wait, but
we are heading in the right direction. USA Climbing also announced their ownership of the World Cup walls, which
means the dependency on gyms for hosting big competitions like this, is gone. The idea of hosting events in
an arena blows my mind….it starts to bring the Olympic vision to life.
My only wish is that it would happen sooner
because I believe if we had an Olympic event soon, talent the likes of Timy Fairfield or Robyn Erbesfield would show
up. I would love to step back in time and see these people perform and I just know an Olympic spot might just do the
trick to lure them out. Meanwhile, as I daydream of the future of competition climbing, I remind myself I’m in
the Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria, Virginia about to compete for
a position on the US team and an invitation to the 2010 World Cup in Vail, Colorado.

     Before I dive in there, some tee-up is necessary to give you a full appreciation of the challenges to even getting here.
You know the saying ‘when life throws you lemons, make lemonade.’ Well, if you were one of the
people rolling their eyes saying ‘if only,’ then you would be joining me in my thoughts leading up to the competition.
Since the end of the Holidays and my return to Seattle, it had been one thing after another, draining me, testing me,
pushing me to my limit of tolerance. Like waves crashing in on top of one another, I was submerged, reemerged only to be taken under again.
Sometimes, it felt like this would not stop and when a stretch of evenness came along and I thought things had calmed
down, another wall of water would fall on me. The final test came just days before the competition. When my flight was cancelled due to the poor weather conditions out East.
I was certain it was the last straw and despite reserving the last possible seat on a Thursday flight, I wondered if I would find myself in that seat that day.

   Some courage and support (Sabrina and Andrea, I can’t thank you enough!!) helped keep me on course and by Weds night, I knew I would try to make it to the Competition.
Once I overcame that hurdle and found myself in-flight, it was a matter of the weather and airport conditions to actually make it to Alexandria.
I was flying into Washington Dulles and that was the first airport to re-open after the storm cleared. Roads were still in varied conditions, mostly with side lanes
partially impassable because of snow build up making 2 lanes 1 1/2, etc. But, the flight was smooth and all went well getting my car and getting to Alexandria and the hotel.
On my way, I saw a nasty accident of about 6 or 7 cars with one car severly battered and on it’s side. People were standing around but no emergency vehicles had arrived, yet.
Before driving past this, I had thought I had reached city traffic and expected severe delays. Fortunatley, it wasn’t traffic and fortunately none of those cars were me.
Note to self and others, check the windshield wiper fluid before leaving the rental lot. I rented from Alamo for an amazing rate but without windshield wiper fluid I
couldn’t clean my windows, which rapidly frosted and hazed over making it difficult to see. This coupled with bizarre road structures and signs that come by too late
to take action really had me surprised I didn’t at least cause an accident, myself (*whew*)!


Shante and Sue
Finaly, the drama and apprehension leading to Qualifiers ebbed and eased as I arrived at the Hotel and met my weekend room mates. One of the parents
of a girl on the Youth team (Youth D) was there. Here daugter, Shante, was experiencing her first National event. She was a pure Barely able
to sit still, she kept the weekend alive for everyone. Although she didn’t make finals for her category, she climbed well. And, for her first Nationals, she
did awesome! In fact, hanging out to watch the Youth climbers was inspirational. They are so strong and even the little ones are impressive. I was happy to have taken
the time to hang out for that. Not to mention Vertical World, my local climbing gym, had a decent showing so there were a
lot of youth I recognized from the gym there. Such a treat to spectate and cheer for them. Way to go team Vertical World!

    Isolation for qualifiers was very well put together. We had a lot of space to work with and it was easy to get away from the crowd. I didn’t have
any issue getting on a wall I wanted or anything. They even had real equipment available if you wanted it for warming up (like a treadmill, campus board, free weights, etc).
That’s a heck of a lot better than some isolations I’ve heard of and experienced. Thanks, Sportrock! Moving the event to an arena will eliminate this issue, as well.

    For some stats, because I know if you are reading this you are interested in what happened; here’s how it played out.


Qualifiers had about 40 women registered to compete, but only 32 actually competed. Alex Puccio qualified in 1st, Audrey Gawrych in 2nd and
Alex Johnson in 3rd. They had announced earlier that they were taking 15 to Finals so I had hoped to at least make that. Turns out, I barely made it by placing 14th. All
15 women competed in Finals, some competing in Youth Qualifiers earlier in the day, too. When all was said and done, Alex held top spot but AJ moved up one and Francesca
Metcalf took 3rd. Great job ladies!! Btw, Francesca was in top qualifying position for Youth A, as well. For myself, I moved up 7 positions, finishing 7th.

Daniel Woods
For the men, 52 men registered to compete. Going into Finals it was Magnus qualifying in 1st, Daniel Woods in 2nd and Paul Robinson in 3rd. After the Finals round, Daniel
took top spot followed by Matt Bosley and Robert D’Anastasio. Some of my friends were competing in the male category and were worried they didn’t make finals, but with some non-US citizens in
the competition, USAC was forced to take as many more US men as were Non-US that made finals. There were 3 that were non-US citizens so this meant my friends squeeked in.
Nice job, guys!

Finals was quite the show with heartbreak moments watching Paul slip away from a top spot. Alex just missing the final hold on problem 3 and nearly missing the trick to
problem 4 that could have cost her position. Daniel smoking the problems only to fall off the finishing hold on the final problem. Time ran out and he didn’t get the Top
for that problem. Francesca dominating out of the gate, giving a good run for a top 3 finish.

You can find the breakdown and full results list out on the Home page of http://absnationals.org/index.html.

Every competition has it’s quirks and last year’s Nationals had, uh-hem, many. This year, I thought they did a better job of setting for the format and setting
good problems. The World Cup Walls are intimidatingly tall, but provide for a blank canvas for creation and that’s what they did. Nice work! Thank you to everyone
who worked hard to pull this together so someone like myself can benefit from your hard work. I am glad I didn’t give up and perservered to allow myself this
opportunity. It was worth it. Thanks!

Washington Monument
To conclude my trip, spent a blistery day driving and walking around the Capitol city. Shante and Sue (Shante’s mom) joined me. We left relatively early, early enough
to get lost a bunch and not be worried about too much traffic. We toured the main parts of the Capitol, including visiting the Capitol itself. One downside to visiting
on Sunday is that everything is closed. 😦 This was actually not a huge downer since the weather was screemingly cold and parking horrendously scarce. After the Capitol, Supreme
court and Library of Congress viewing, we headed towards the Washington Monument. Absorbed with the Monument, we neglected to look in the other direction and observe the
White House. We had to come back to it later after visiting the Lincoln Memorial. We were forunate in our drive to pass the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery, though
due to the weather, Arlington cemetery was closed to the public. Bummer.

After our patriotic visit, we made our way back toward the airport. The weekend had gone by quckly and everything was already a blurr in my mind. So much to share, so much
experienced, it might bore you to read it all. 🙂

About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
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